Okay, shameless nicknaming of Havelock Vetinari. That was me. Not canon at all.
But...gods, I love Vetinari. And Vimes. Hopefully in conjunction.
Vimes was a very stable man, really. Underneath all the world-weariness, and the copperness, and the I've-needed-a-drink-for-the-last-five-years-iness, Vimes was extremely stable.
That is to say, there were few things in this world that could truly threaten Vimes' stableness.
Unfortunately, his weekly report to Vetinari was one of those.
Vimes tried to stay focused, but that steady, black gaze could unnerve a dragon. Even worse, it was patient, yet still forced you to whittle the subject down to the essentials.
He finished droning on about the small pro-golem rally that had almost turned into a very one-sided riot. Something about the anti-golem people attempting to incite the pro-golemists, which was stupid because they were all golems to begin with and golems didn't incite very easily.
Still, there had been smashing of pottery, which could be compared to burning someone in effigy, and the Watch had been called in.
All in all, not the slowest day ever.
Vetinari said, "But the matter is settled now?"
"Yes, my lord."
One eyebrow lifted. "Are you then having a stretch of 'free time'?"
Vimes stared at him. "A stretch of what?"
"Free time. Time during which you are not on duty."
"I know what it – I mean, yes, my lord, I suppose I am technically not on-duty right now…"
Vetinari nodded with a purpose. "Then I would like to extend an invitation to go… ah, drinking."
Vimes stared again. And then swallowed. "I don't do that, my lord."
"I mean, of course, the sort of drinking," ye gods, it was like a foreign language to him, wasn't it? "which does not involve beverages of the barely-and-hops variety."
Vimes floundered. "Er… Why?"
"A social experiment. I have found that various political figures are more inclined to cooperate if I am, in a sense, buying."
"You don't have to- We- Er, I'm fairly certain that I'm paid to cooperate with you… um, my lord."
Vetinari had opened the door already, and implied, through subtle changes in posture, that he was waiting for Vimes to follow.
Walking briskly down the hallway, Vetinari said thoughtfully, "Most of the other forays involved fine wines and cheeses, actually. As I understand it, however, your palette is not trained to this fare."
Vimes was still stuck on the suggestion. "Where are we going... my lord?"
Vetinari said, "I am not familiar with your genre of dining facilities." His tone suggested the opposite. "I intended to allow you to choose."
Vimes concentrated. It would have to be secure – the Patrician! – and that alone narrowed the candidates from hundreds to one. The copper's pub. "I… have just the place. My lord."
And that was how they wound up in front of this door.
Vimes still couldn't believe that they had simply strolled down seven blocks of average Ankh-Morpork people without one of them being accosted. The Commander of the Watch and the Patrician, neither of whom had sterling records in the opinion of passerby…
Maybe it had to do with the fact that Vetinari looked… normal.
Vimes had a copper's attitude and a copper's walk. Step by rolling step, eyes habitually scanning the street, hand on a belt that had held a truncheon when he was actually on the patrol rotation.
Vetinari didn't glide regally like at ceremonial shindigs, or use that clipped step like when he was politicking. Vetinari trudged. Trudged like a champion trudger. He was so over-nonchalant that he made it seem natural.
And now they were here and Vimes was too stressed out to think beyond that unsatisfying glass of fruit juice that he was going to order to calm himself down.
They managed their way inside and everyone looked up. They saw Stoneface Vimes and some friend of his, and half of them nodded before going back to their drinks.
Vetinari even fooled the Watchmen in here? Watchmen could tell when they were being fooled!
They sat in two stools, Vimes a bit nervously. Sam Vimes, out drinking with Patrician Havelock Vetinari? Pull the other one, it has bells on…
Vetinari flagged the bartender as though he'd done it every day of his life. "Jimmy, how is the new wife?"
Jimmy the bartender said, "It's a bit rough around the edges, Lock. We're working on the No houseguests overnight when Jimmy isn't home rule at the moment."
"Best of luck to you."
"Thank'ye, and will it be the usual?"
"Certainly. And whatever Vimes gets, too."
Jimmy nodded and sauntered off.
Vimes closed his mouth. "You – You know Jimmy?"
Vetinari nodded blandly. "Though this may come as a shock to you, I know some people outside of the proverbial snakepit of the upper echelons of society."
Vimes tried to weave the Vetinari of the Patrician's office into Jimmy the bartender's life, and failed utterly. Instead, he thanked Jimmy for the drink and sipped at the strawberry-ish sugar jump.
Vetinari had what appeared to be black tea and honey. He said, "And your Duchess Sybil. Have her eyebrows returned safely?"
Vimes sidled into a comfortable tone. "They are…well underway. Er…my lord…"
Some heads turned to see who he was talking to.
Vetinari said, "While incognito, I prefer Lock. It is a shortening of my first name of which my classmates were fond, because of a natural childhood proclivity for locks and the picking of such."
Vimes knew Vetinari's history, in a sense, and mentally went back into the sentence to add 'in the Assassin's guild'. He stumbled through, "L-Lock," before resolving never to say the word again. That was just weird.
Vetinari said, "Yes…ah, Samuel?"
Like a foreign language.
Vimes shook his head. No one called him Samuel. Just his grandmother, a very long time ago. It was Sam or Vimes or Commander or Sir or, maybe, Your Grace, but not Samuel. "Just Sa- Vimes. Please."
They sat there drinking like old buddies.
Then it hit him.
Buddies. They were sitting there, and Vetinari was acting like they had known each other forever – which, alright, they had, in a way, but it wasn't like they were friends or any such thing –
"Lo… Um, you, I'm wondering something."
"By all means."
Just say it, Sam. With tact.
Or blurt it out. Also good. That'll help you keep your job.
Vetinari looked at his glass for a moment, planning out his words because he was just too politician to be natural about everything. "That is relative. Do you count as a friend?"
No. Tact this time. "…Do I?"
Vetinari smiled as much as Vimes had ever seen – not much, for a normal man, but for Vetinari it was nearly manic – and said, "I understand. You are uncomfortable."
Vimes opened his mouth and didn't know a tactful way to deny it.
Vetinari stood, put coins on the bar, grotesquely overtipping Jimmy the bartender. His voice was just as even as it always was. "This social experiment is, obviously, a failure. Duly noted."
It was pathetic, but Vimes offered, "This had been just about the most surreal experience of my life."
"I suppose that is saying something." Vetinari inclined his head and left the bar.
Vimes sat with his heel on the stool's rung and his leg bouncing sporadically for a few seconds.
He cursed himself and rushed out of the bar, too. "Veti-"
Idiot, don't call the Patrician by name in the middle of the street!
"Godsamn it… Lock!"
Vetinari, halfway down the block, turned casually and waited for him to jog closer.
Vimes puffed, "Tonight, you could… have dinner, maybe. Sybil's always willing to be hospitable. She complains that I don't bring enough fri-" He bit his tongue. "Enough people home as it is."
"Your wife's hospitality was not the objective."
Vimes tried again. "Er… next week, she's going to be out visiting with some Lord and Lady from Sto Helit or thereabouts. Cabbage farmers. I'm going to wheedle out of it. We could… um, have a smoke. Or something. You could come over, sort of thing."
Vetinari said, "It isn't necessary."
They both looked at each other, and they both knew it wasn't nearly good enough, but it was a start.
"Very well. I can't refuse a f… an invitation."
Vimes grinned a lopsided grin and said, "You want me to walk you back to the Palace?"
Vetinari looked down the street in the direction he would be traveling, and then looked back at Vimes. "I would prefer not. I know the way… and you draw attention."
He inclined his head again and trudged away.
Vimes watched him go and chuckled in spite of himself.
Friends with the Patrician? He could do that…